Man sits on a yoga mat, legs crossed, with palms facing up in meditation

5 Ways Other People with MS Put Their Self-Care First

By Lauren Krouse
July 19, 2024

When you’re living with a physically and emotionally taxing condition like MS, self-care is essential. But taking care of yourself can be a challenge when your symptoms are unpredictable and could flare up at any moment. If your body and mind are telling you it’s time to recenter yourself, consider taking some notes from other people with MS.

Here, five share the self-care strategies that they’ve learned work best for them.

1. Try Adaptive Yoga

“It’s so important to keep moving each and every day, and to be able to adapt your movement or activity in a way that feels best for you.”

— Sarah Thomas, 36, Little Rock, Arkansas

Sarah, a health and wellness coach, says adaptive yoga has helped her keep moving to protect her mental, physical, and spiritual health while also easing symptoms like tension and soreness. She checks in with her body to decide between more demanding workouts like tennis and Vinyasa flow versus gentler alternatives like chair yoga or meditation.

“That’s the magic of yoga: You can adapt your practice for what feels good for your body that day,” she says, “and there are many ways to tailor exercises to your ability, such as using a chair or adding blocks to reduce the stress on your body.”

Beyond physical benefits like reduced spasticity and improved balance, research suggests yoga could also help dial down MS-related stress and fatigue.

2. Nourish Your Body

“While the diagnosis was devastating, it was a wake-up call to feed my body properly so that I can be my best for not just myself, but for those who need me most.”

— Melissa Hadley, 41, Douglas, Massachusetts

As a certified behavior change specialist and holistic health coach, Melissa places fitness and nutrition at the top of her list for self-care. Along with regular Beachbody classes to keep her mood and mobility up, she prioritizes avoiding foods that may trigger inflammation by carefully reading ingredient lists and nutrition labels at the grocery store.

“Given that MS is an inflammatory illness, certain ingredients can cause more inflammation, and [I] want to avoid them as much as possible,” she says. Ideally, that means avoiding high-sugar processed foods and refined carbs, like white bread, while loading up on antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

3. Get Some Fresh Air

“I love being outside, and nature calms me.”

— Shambrekiá Wise, 36, Dallas

For Shambrekiá, there’s a common through line for many of her self-care activities: taking in the great outdoors. To relax, she loves to go hiking and glamping (camping with some luxurious amenities) in parks and trails across Texas and Arkansas.

“I can’t wait until I own a home one day, because I will add gardening to the list,” she says. Nature-based getaways are a well-known balm for relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. Your own backyard or nearby walking paths are opportunities to take in fresh air or green space, and there are also plenty of accessible nature trails you can add to your travel bucket list if you’re looking to conquer new territory.

4. Treat Yourself to a Massage

“Among my top self-care strategies for MS are getting a regular monthly massage to relax and ease the tension in my muscles. I just had one today!”

— Dan Digmann, 49, Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Dan lives with MS, has a wife with MS, and blogs about their lives together on top of having a full-time creative writing job. With all that going on, he’s well aware of the importance of self-care. His secret? Always keeping a monthly massage on his schedule. “I usually get one specified for relaxation, but I also call out [certain] areas and ask for more deep-tissue massage,” he says.

During the rest of the month, he listens to music to help take care of his emotional well‑being, using playlists to manage his mood and energy levels. “It’s the perfect tool to calm me down, fire me up, energize me, relax me, and help me forget about, overcome, and manage my MS,” he says, noting that music streaming apps are perfect for finding the right music for the right time.

5. Take Soothing Breaks

“I use the alarms on my phone religiously to remind me to take breaks, eat, and pray.”

— Felicia Kelly, 34, Houston

Felicia, a business owner and mom of two, says her top MS self-care strategies—besides listening to her doctor—are eliminating stress and prioritizing rest. To combat hustle culture and protect her well‑being, she uses the clock app on her phone to set 40-minute breaks after every hour and a half of work. Soft tones serve as a gentle reminder.

After particularly hectic days, she also practices deep breathing each evening with a relaxing soundtrack of ocean sounds. “I’ll begin by taking a deep breath, holding it, and counting backward from five while I let it out,” she says. “I continue this process no less than five times until I feel centered and entirely at ease.”

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